What's New at the Zoo?

Who would have guessed that my first visit to the Dallas Zoo in about a million years would coincide with a Children's Health event for kids who had had heart surgery?!?  My friend and I kept seeing these shirts, I was paying attention to the yellow ones that said "Hero 15" on the back of them because I thought they were cool looking and made me think of Big Hero 6 which was a fun movie.  My friend was paying attention to all of the kids in green shirts with a lion on the front.  She finally asked someone at lunch and the lady told us about her little boy and what he had been through...Cutest little guy, such a fighter and only three years old!  My friend and I thought it was kismet that we were there during the event, given that I had also just made it through open heart surgery, and the informative lady said that I needed to go and get myself a green surgery survivor shirt.  I so would have if that had really been an option...(I haven't been able to find any information about the event on the internet, so if you were at the Dallas Zoo on April 2nd, were part of the event, and have information that you can share please write a comment or send me an e-mail.)

Ok, let's back track a little here: One of my friends, her daughter (yep, that beautiful baby below is her), and I took a trip down to the Dallas Zoo at the beginning of the month.  We took the Dart Rail down from Plano.  The ride was maybe a bit longer than driving would have been, but not much, and when you factor in the headache of parking I totally think we came out ahead.
I have a ton of animal photos to share with you, but I thought I'd start with the Zoo's most recent feature.  Unfortunately it ended on the 10th, but Nature Connects was an amazing exhibit of large scale sculptures by Sean Kenney made from hundreds of thousands of LEGOs.  There was also a competition where children and families submitted their own LEGO works of art which were judged by a "Master Model Builder from LEGOLAND Discovery Center DFW" (ZooHoo, Nature Connects).
The first sculpture that we came to was a bee on a pansy, and that's pretty much all it took to hook me!  I love bees and flowers, and then there is the obvious care and dedication visible in the piece...
This sculpture consists of 29,314 LEGO and took 240 hours to construct!  And then the Zoo made it even better by adding interesting bits of information about the featured animal on each of the information plaques for the sculptures.  "Bees are some of the most important pollinators on Earth!  Plants need pollinators to survive.  As bees search inside flowers for nectar, pollen grains attach to their bodies.  They then fly from flower to flower and move the pollen, which is necessary for plant reproduction" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, Violet-colored Pansy Bloom and Bee).
Keeping with insects, there was also a dragonfly that had to be four feet long!
The dragonfly was a 515 hour build made up of 27,788 LEGOs.  "Even though prehistoric dragonfly fossils feature two-foot wingspans, modern dragonflies' wingspans measure just up to five inches.  However, this is no ordinary set of wings!  Dragonflies have the ability to beat their wings together or individually, allowing them to turn in midair, hover, and fly backward.  These powerful wings also allow the insets to reach speeds up to 20 mph" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly).
"Did you know the tallest bird in North America almost vanished just 75 years ago?  The whooping crane population reached a low point of 15 individuals due to habitat loss and hunting.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, and zoos teamed up to protect these birds and their habitats, and the population as rebounded to about 600" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, Whooping Crane).  This whooping crane didn't take 75 years to come up, but it did take  242 hours and 43,678 LEGOs.
There was a family of white-tailed deer which consumed a whopping 540 hours and 84,442 LEGOs to build.
"White-tailed deer can be found from Canada to South America.  Females (does) protect their babies (fawns) from predators, including coyotes and wolves.  Males (bucks) have antlers to fight other males for territory and to attract females.  The bucks shed their antlers every spring and regrow them every year.  Deer are herbivores as their diet consists mostly of plants" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, White-Tailed Deer).
Kenney spent 416 hours employing 63,379 LEGOs to create his Snow Leopard.  This sculpture reminded me of the snow leopard scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  "A snow leopard can jump up to six times its body length to catch prey!  Prey, including mountain goats and sheep, do not hear this cat coming because of its wide, padded paws.  Its coat provides superb camouflage for its rocky, mountainous habitat.  Because of its elusive nature, this cat has earned the name 'Ghost Cat of the Himalayas" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, Snow Leopard).
And my favorite of the sculptures: The polar bears.  I know, I know, I love bees and all of the other sculptures that we saw were brilliant, but the way that the sunlight and shadows played off the monochromatic white of the polar bears was just fantastic.  Plus it's a sculpture of bears, and you shouldn't, but bears have the sweetest faces and you, or I at least, just want to go up and hug them.  I feel that way about large cats too.  Both striking, cuddly, predatory, dangerous animals...I'm a little concerned about what that says about me.
"Polar bears are considered marine mammals because they spend most of their lives in the Arctic Ocean.  To stay warm in such a cool climate, polar bears have a layer of blubber and black skin underneath their fur to absorb heat from the sun.  Since they are well adapted for cold, polar bears cool down by jumping in the ocean" (Dallas Zoo, Nature Connects, Polar Bears).
This weekend the Zoo has Dallas Roars! Rumble in the Jungle and Photo Safari Overnight.  This weekend's Rumble in the Jungle is the first of six Dallas Roars weekends with fun for the whole family.  And the Photo Safari is an opportunity for a small group of people to spend the night at the Zoo and to take photographs before and after the Zoo closes.  I may have to look into going to the next Photo Safari Overnight.

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